47. From Karmayoga to Dhyanayoga:
For self-realisation there are two chief means. One is through action and the other through meditation. The science of action has been explained at length so far. In this sixth chapter the science of meditation is expounded.
Only after having practised karmayoga, the constituents of which are renunciation of desire and right action, and become a yogi and a sanyasi should a person take to the practice of meditation (dhy˜nayoga Xyanyaeg). Our pursuit is complete only when we have achieved a state of steadiness through karmayoga and then the direct vision of God. Karmayoga is the chief instrument for the purification of the heart which is necessary for dhyanayoga, prior to God-realisation. Without practising desireless action and acquiring purity of heart we cannot jump at once to meditation. We should go step by step. If we try to jump across too many steps in one leap we may trip and fall. That is why every aspirant should try to inculcate karma-yoga which is preparatory to meditation and realisation. The spiritual attitude which neglects service and duty is least helpful to our progress.
48. Social Service Is Indispensable for a Karmayogi:
We are under the impression that performance of daily ritual and
prayer and other obligations according to the varNaashramadharma are the only
duties enjoined on an aspirant. Besides the duties like the study of scriptures
and others enjoined specially on each caste (varõa
v[R), there is another duty that is
required to be performed by one and all, irrespective of the caste (varõa
v[R) to which one belongs. That is social
service. One of the important duties to be performed by an aspirant is the
service of humanity in several ways. Our heart should be moved by the sorry
sight of hunger, misery and sickness, wherever they may exist. God is within
everyone of us and if we perform social service unselfishly remembering the
indwelling God, He will be pleased.
tSy àaPyupkare[ àItae -vit kezv>,
tasya pr˜pyupak˜reõa prŸto bhavati keþava× -- Gita Tatparya
(The Lord Keshav is pleased by the good he does to living beings.)
An aspirant should carry on this social service side by side
with his devotion and prayers till his enlightenment. Performance of social
service is not optional but mandatory. This duty is as inescapable in our
spiritual life as payment of taxes in our mundane life. This is the tax we pay
to the Almighty. One who evades taxes is not a worthy citizen. So also, if we
evade social service to the poor and the sick we shall be avoiding the payment
of the taxes to the Supreme Lord of this world. Could we ever hope to be the
worthy citizens of this creation if we do not serve the One Lord by serving the
needy and the poor?
nana jnSy zuïU;a ktRVyakrviTmte>,
n˜n˜ janasya þuþr¨ÿ˜ kartavy˜karavatmite× -- Gita Tatparya
(We should serve all, as an obligation like the payment of taxes.)
Sri Madhvacharya has pointed out in the above sloka of the Gita Tatparya the indispensability of social service and the holy significance behind it. This is the statement of an ideal favourite with me. There are many people who perform meticulously the duties prescribed for them by their caste but they are completely indifferent to their social obligations. They think that taking part in social activities only diverts one's attention from God and that an aspirant should not waste his time in such things but spend his whole time in prayers and meditation. They have restricted the message of karma by limiting it to the professions passed on to them from the caste system and the activities of telling the beads and other daily rituals. According to Sri Madhvacharya the Gita emphasises that individual prayers and meditation should be performed side by side with service to humanity. Vedanta does not teach us to turn our face away from society; on the other hand, we should realise how it lays down a constructive programme which, if performed in the true spirit, paves the way to individual as well as social advancement.
There are two categories of people in the world. To the first category belong the people who spend all their time in prayer and meditation and do not care for society. To the other category belong people who are fully engaged in social welfare activities but have no time for God at all. The lives of both these types of people are incomplete and imperfect. Prayer without social service does not make for true religiousness while social service without a prayerful attitude is not service in the true sense of the term. Both are aspects of one and the same thing. Both are in fact complementary like two faces of a coin. If we do not realise this we shall be like the proverbial blind men who touch only the tail of the elephant and say that the whole elephant is like a rope. Religious leaders should realise the importance of social service and social workers should perform their duties selflessly in a prayerful attitude as a dedication to God.
Once upon a time a group of Sadhu pilgrims were returning from Benaras and as usual they were carrying the holy Ganga water with them. They were supposed to carry the holy water to Rameshwaram and pour it there. On their way they had to pass through the Rajasthan desert and there they found one thirsty camel on the verge of death. The Sadhus no doubt felt compassion and pity for the dying animal but the thought they were helpless as they had to carry their holy water to Rameshwaram. But one of them thoughtfully poured the holy water he was carrying into its mouth and saved its life when the others objected to his wasting the holy water meant to be poured at Rameshwaram. But the Sadhu replied that he saw God in this camel and the pouring of the water into this camel's mouth and saving its life was the greatest worship of God. God is not far away from us. He is in side each and every creature ready to receive our offering. Prahlada has preached in the Bhagavata that a special kind of worship lies in identifying Him inside all the fellow-beings and serving Him through them.
We should not forget God when we are engaged in social service
either. There is a goal behind everyone of our activities. This goal should be
the worship of God who is immanent in all the creatures. If this goal is not
there, then various worldly and selfish motives find their way and goad us to do
social service either for fame or prestige and make our service artificial. All
activities which are not performed as a dedication to God yield only temporary
results, however seemingly beneficial they may be to society.
uddhared˜tman˜tm˜naÕ -- VI-5
(One should try to redeem oneself by oneself (or by the grace of God).)
According to the Gita only he who is engaged in karmayoga or selfless action is eligible for dhyanayoga or meditation. Meditation leads to God-perception and that in turn leads to liberation. Thus the key to our salvation is in our own hands.
The soul is our precious possession and it is our primary duty
to take it out of the cycle of birth and death which is full of misery, and make
it enjoy eternal happiness. This must be achieved by our own efforts of the
mnyev mnu:ya[a< kar[< b<xmae]yae>,
manayeva manuÿy˜õ˜Õ k˜raõaÕ bandhamokÿayo×
(Man's mind alone is the cause of his bondage or release.)
Our mind is the instrument of our rise or fall; it can be our dearest friend or foe. With one and the same key we can either lock the box or open it. Similarly the mind can lead either to bondage or to liberation. If the key to our salvation is in our own hands, then why can't we work for it with all enthusiasm. But the mind is like a huge elephant. If it is properly trained it can work wonders; if it is untrained it can easily crush us. If we have control over our mind, it is our greatest asset. But an untrained and uncontrolled mind can become our greatest enemy and throw us into the whirlpool of life. We must be very careful in this respect.
Our friend and foe are both within us. Thinking that our enemies are outside, we unnecessarily look at them with hatred and jealousy. Once upon a time a selfish devotee prayed to God: "Oh God, let your arrows shower on my enemies." Immediately he found these arrows piercing him all round. He got perplexed and asked God again; "Oh God, I only asked that your arrows be showered on my enemies and not on me. Please do not miss your target." God said: "My aim is correct. Your greatest enemy is within yourself. In answer to your prayers I am destroying your enemy. This parable shows that our enemy is within us and we should conquer it first before we can think of turning our hatred towards others around us and thus waste our energy. Our primary duty therefore is to control our mind and work for spiritual advancement.
To achieve liberation through meditation, mere control of mind
is not sufficient. God's grace is also necessary. If we pray to God with great
devotion and perform our prescribed duties, the act bestows on us the strength
of mind necessary for concentration and meditation. Without His grace we can
achieve neither meditation nor realisation.
ymevE; v&[ute ten l_y>,
yamevaiÿa v®õute tena labhya× -- Kathopanishad 2:23
(We can realise God only if He chooses us.)
If God is pleased by our devotion and righteous actions He gives us liberation. On the other hand if we displease Him by our unrighteous action and unsocial behaviour, He will punish us. Therefore to please God we should lead a disciplined life, following the rules and regulations laid down by Him. Such a life is necessary for the progress of the soul. A deep-rooted persistence in duty, control of mind and God's grace, with these three we should start treading the path of dhyanayoga.
49. The Theory and Practice of Meditation:
Selecting a secluded place conducive to the cheerfulness of mind
and fixing a suitable seat made of dried grass, deerskin and cloth and sitting
on it with the body erect, controlling the senses and fixing the vision on the
tip of the nose, one should begin meditation by focusing the mind on God. The
mind begins to waver if the body is unstable. Proper attention should be given
to physical fitness as an aid to meditation. Severe austerities, detrimental to
yoga and tortuous to the body should be avoided. Overeating is not good; nor
should one get feeble by under-eating. A futile abstinence from sleep or
oversleeping is also injurious to the practice of yoga. A right measure of food,
sleep or recreation and disciplined life leads to a state of the body, which is
helpful to yoga. It is the contact of the senses with the worldly pleasures that
makes the mind flicker like a flame exposed to wind. The mind of a yogi freed
from sense-desires is like a steady flame in still air. A yogi does not perceive
anything except God. The yogi who meditates on God alone with an inflexible
mind, gets the highest ecstasy, which is only to be experienced and is beyond
the sensuous. He does not get anywhere in the world a joy which surpasses this
ecstasy. If the joy of renunciation is greater than the joy of enjoyment of
worldly pleasures, the bliss of yoga lends to it the beauty of fullness and is
the pinnacle of bliss.
Our mind is like a pot with a number of holes from which all water leaks out without our knowing. All worthy thoughts flash for a while in the mind but vanish immediately. But a yogi plugs these holes and fills his mind with the nectar of God-knowledge. He also sees that nothing leaks out of it.
ytae ytae inírit mníÁclmiSwrm!,
ttSttae inyMyEtdaTmNyev vz< nyet!.
yato yato niþcarati manaþcañcalamasthiram
tatastato niyamyaitad˜tmanyeva vaþaÕ nayet -- VI-26
(Wherever the fickle mind wanders uncertainly, there only should it be checked and led to the pursuit of God.)
By constant and vigilant practice, he is able to fix the image
of God in his mind. By uninterrupted meditation alone gradually he achieves a
direct vision of God. This direct perception is the most invaluable reward of
this life. He sees everything in God and God in everything. God supports
everything in this universe. God as a foundation pervades everything from
outside and dwells with in everything, controlling and animating.
tdNtrSy svRSy tÊ svRSyaSy baýt>.
tadantarasya sarvasya tadu sarvasy˜sya b˜hyata× -- Isa 5
(He sports within everything, He rules everything from outside.)
A yogi established in meditation sees nothing but God, both
inside and outside everything in this universe. He swims like fish in the
immortal sea of Godliness.
yae ma< pZyit svRÇ sv¡ c miy pZyit,
yo m˜Õ paþyati sarvatra sarvaÕ ca mayi paþyati -- VI-30
(He who sees Me everywhere and everything within Me.)
To rejoice in the realisation of God as the support and the indwelling principle of this world is the ultimate stage of devotion, and dhyanayoga is the chief means of attaining this stage.
What we see during meditation is not the real God. Under the
guidance of the guru, we acquire a clear knowledge of God. At the time of
meditation we see the picture of God we develop with the pigments of that
knowledge. But we should not think that this image which is the creation of our
mind is the real God, whose nature is but bliss and knowledge. As the stone idol
is but an image of God and not God Himself, so also should we think that the
picture of God which looms on the mind during meditation is only an image. We
should contemplate on the real form of God which is other than the image and is
of absolute knowledge.
nedaÕ yadidamup˜sate -- Talavakara Upanishad
(Not this (image) which he worships.)
The picture in our mind during meditation is not God. So we do not see God during meditation. In such a state we perceive the mind-created image but remember God as pure consciousness and bliss also. Only when a yogi has reached this height of meditation, does he see God face to face, who is of the essence of pure consciousness and bliss. Dhyana is but the ultimate reach of 'indirect' (parokÿa prae]) knowledge and he experiences a peculiar and extraordinary bliss in the concentrated act of unbroken contemplation. He will have the great reward of the direct vision (aparokÿa jñ˜na Aprae] }an) of the excellent person of God Himself. The great fruit of dhyana is but the direct vision of God.
During meditation he should be aware of nothing but God. Meditation, thus, is nothing but pure and intense concentration of mind on God. Once the master-archer Dronacharya asked his disciples to shoot the eye of a dummy pigeon fixed on a branch of a distant tree. He asked each one of his pupils what he saw in front of him.
Almost all of them described the forest, tree, the branches and
the whole pigeon. But Arjuna alone is said to have told that he saw nothing but
the eye of the pigeon which was his target. During meditation, we should
cultivate such intense concentration. In meditation, he who can keep the image
of God in his mind's eye, and hold it there and concentrate on it alone
succeeds, like the archer who never wavered his gaze from the target. When we
sit in meditation, the image of God in the mind's eye flickers and even
disappears, even as from one who intends to paint Ganapati but ends up by
painting a monkey. During meditation, instead of God, perverted and distorted
figures dance on the mind's stage. We should achieve such concentration of mind
as to enthrone none but God in our heart.
à[vaexnu> zraeýaTma äütLlúymuCyte,
AàmÄenveÏVy< zrvÄNmyae -vet!.
praõavodhanu× þarohy˜tm˜ brahmatallakÿyamucyate
apramattenaveddhavyaÕ þaravattanmayo bhavet -- Atharvana Upanishad
(Pranava (Om) is the bow; the soul is the arrow; Brahman is the target. One should strike it with undeviated attention; be steeped in Brahman like the arrow in the target.)
Our mind is like an arrow and we should shoot it straight towards God. Without the bow, the arrow cannot reach its target; it will drop off halfway. With the help of the bow alone it acquires speed. Similarly the mind gets its speed from the study of the Vedas. The Vedas are the bow. Enriched by such a study the mind dissociated from everything else, should dart straight towards God without any distraction or deviation.
50. The Path of Meditation is difficult but harmless.
The practice of meditation in daily life, as explained in the
Gita and the Upanishads, is not easy. The mind is a veritable monkey; it is
difficult to concentrate it for long on any object just as it is difficult to
keep compressed air in open space. Try as much as we can, we find it hard to
focus the mind on God for long. This fickleness of mind has utterly enfeebled us
for the practice of dhyanayoga. This is the ancient problem which has been
teasing us. Arjuna poses this problem before God on behalf of all mankind.
cÁcl< ih mn> k«:[ àmaiw blvdœ †Fm!,
cañcalaÕ hi mana× k®ÿõa pram˜thi balavad d®ýham -- VI-34
(The mind indeed is fickle, provocative of the body and the senses and prone to evil thoughts.)
Sri Krishna gives two ways to face this mischief. One is
constant practice and the other is non-attachment to worldly desires. The mind
is full of foul desires and there is no place for God in it. First of all, as a
preliminary step, we must cleanse the mind of all such desires and make the
place clean and fit for God to come in. As long as the love for the objects of
sense remains, the love of God cannot dawn. Even if we try to remember God, we
easily forget Him. On the other hand, however much we may try to oust the
thoughts of worldly pleasures from our mind, they keep on knocking at the door.
The love of things has struck deep roots in us. It is difficult to uproot the
desires from our mind. The constant pressure of worldly desires and lack of love
of God, are the main reasons for our utter failure in the practice of
meditation. We are more fond of our wife and children, our house and mansion
than of God. How can we concentrate the mind on God unless we love Him
intensely? In our day-to-day life and even in our dream we think of our dear and
near ones. Why can't we think of God even for a few moments? The springs of
devotion have dried up in our hearts. We have no real devotion, we only make a
show of it. Once a certain lady was absorbed in the thought of her husband and
was rushing towards him. On the way she failed to notice the king sitting in
meditation of God and tripped over him. The king flew into a rage and called for
her to question her. She smilingly replied: "Oh King, I was absorbed in the
thought of my husband who is a mere mortal and I was not aware of your presence
and I did not even notice that I tripped over you. But you were absorbed in the
meditation of Almighty God. How then could you know that I tripped over you? Is
not your love for God at least as much as my love for my husband?" This is
a real question. We do not love God even half as much as we love our family and
property. No wonder we are unable to fix the image of God in our mind. We can do
this only by intense love of God and total absence of worldly desires.
yttae=ip hre> pds<Smr[e
skl< ý"mazu ly< ìjit,
yatato’pi hare× padasaÕsmaraõe
sakalaÕ hyagham˜þu layaÕ vrajati -- Dvadashastotra
(Even when an effort is made to remember the Lord's feet, all sins soon vanish.)
As Sri Madhvacharya has stated, even if we make an honest attempt to remember the Lord's feet, that will cleanse our mind of all sins.
Arjuna asks the Lord whether a failed yogi is bereft of
happiness both of this world and the other. Krishna resolved his doubt by
n ih kLya[k«Tkiídœ ÊgRit< tat gCDit,
na hi kaly˜õak®tkaþcid durgatiÕ t˜ta gacchati -- VI-40
(Arjuna, the one who has practised in the path of meditation will never suffer debasement.)
One who undertakes good works will not meet with harmful consequences, even if he has left them halfway. Worthy reward is reserved for a good act performed with an honest effort. This assurance of the Lord is not empty like that given by persons like ministers and officers. God sees to it that the path we pursued now, but left halfway, would be resumed in a different life. We should perform our spiritual practice with a firm faith in the providential design of God. I am not provoking you with a call for meditation. Let everybody honestly undertake a spiritual practice which suits him most. Let everyone achieve exaltation of self at least by performing such simple and religiously sanctioned practices like the 'sandhya'. By an elementary beginning he will certainly and easily see his way ahead.